His Excellency General Washington

In honor of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, we present this work by a poet who was denied the benefits of both.

Phillis Wheatley
American
1753 – 1784

 

Celestial choir! enthron’d in realms of light,
Columbia’s scenes of glorious toils I write.
While freedom’s cause her anxious breast alarms,
She flashes dreadful in refulgent arms.
See mother earth her offspring’s fate bemoan,
And nations gaze at scenes before unknown!
See the bright beams of heaven’s revolving light
Involved in sorrows and the veil of night!
The Goddess comes, she moves divinely fair,
Olive and laurel binds Her golden hair:
Wherever shines this native of the skies,
Unnumber’d charms and recent graces rise.
Muse! Bow propitious while my pen relates
How pour her armies through a thousand gates,
As when Eolus heaven’s fair face deforms,
Enwrapp’d in tempest and a night of storms;
Astonish’d ocean feels the wild uproar,
The refluent surges beat the sounding shore;
Or think as leaves in Autumn’s golden reign,
Such, and so many, moves the warrior’s train.
In bright array they seek the work of war,
Where high unfurl’d the ensign waves in air.
Shall I to Washington their praise recite?
Enough thou know’st them in the fields of fight.
Thee, first in peace and honors-we demand
The grace and glory of thy martial band.
Fam’d for thy valour, for thy virtues more,
Hear every tongue thy guardian aid implore!
One century scarce perform’d its destined round,
When Gallic powers Columbia’s fury found;
And so may you, whoever dares disgrace
The land of freedom’s heaven-defended race!
Fix’d are the eyes of nations on the scales,
For in their hopes Columbia’s arm prevails.
Anon Britannia droops the pensive head,
While round increase the rising hills of dead.
Ah! Cruel blindness to Columbia’s state!
Lament thy thirst of boundless power too late.
Proceed, great chief, with virtue on thy side,
Thy ev’ry action let the Goddess guide.
A crown, a mansion, and a throne that shine,
With gold unfading, Washington! Be thine.

Lines to a Parrot

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 260th birthday.

Joanna Baillie
Scots
1762 – 1851

 

In these our days of sentiment
When youthful poets all lament
Some dear lost joy, some cruel maid;
Old friendship changed and faith betrayed;
The world’s cold frown and every ill
That tender hearts with anguish fill;
Loathing this world and all its folly,
In lays most musical and melancholy,–
Touching a low and homely string,
May poet of a Parrot sing
With dignity uninjured? say!–
No; but a simple rhymester may.
Well then, I see thee calm and sage,
Perched on the summit of thy cage,
With broad, hooked beak and plumage green,
Changing to azure in the light,
Gay pinions tipped with scarlet bright,
And, strong for mischief, use or play,
Thick talons, crisped with silver grey,–
A gallant bird, I ween!
What courtly dame, for ball-room drest–
What gartered lord in silken vest–
On wedding morn what country bride
With groom bedizened by her side–
What youngsters in their fair-day geer,
Did ever half so fine appear?
Alas! at ball, or, church, or fair,
Were ne’er assembled visions rare
Of moving creatures all so gay
As in thy native woods, where day
In blazing torrid brightness played
Through checkered boughs and gently made
A ceaseless morris-dance of sheen and shade!
In those blest woods, removed from man,
Thy early being first began,
‘Mid gay compeers, who, blest as thou,
Hopped busily from bough to bough,
Robbing each loaded branch at pleasure
Of berries, buds and kerneled treasure;
Then rose aloft with outspread wing,
Then stooped on flexile twig to swing,
Then coursed and circled through the air,
Mate chasing mate, full many a pair.
It would have set one’s heart a dancing
To ‘ve seen their varied feathers glancing,
And thought how many happy things
Creative Goodness into being brings.
But now how changed! it is thy doom
Within a walled and windowed room
To hold thy home, and (all forgot
The traces of thy former lot),
Clutching the wires with progress slow,
Still round and round thy cage to go.
Or cross the carpet:–altered case!
This now is all thy daily travel’s space.
Yet here thou art a cherished droll,
Known by the name of Pretty Poll;
Oft fed by lady’s gentle hand
With sops and sugar at command,
And sometimes too a nut or cherry,
Which in thy claws to beak and eye
Thou seemest to raise right daintily,
Turning it oft, as if thou still
Wert scanning it with cautious skill,
Provoking urchins near to laughter loud and merry.
See, gathered round, a rosy band,
With eager upcast eyes they stand,
Marking thy motions and withal
Delighting on thy name to call;
And hear, like human speech, reply
Come from thy beak most curiously.
They shout, they mowe, they grin, they giggle,
Clap hands, hoist arms, and shoulders wriggle;
O here, well may we say or sing,
That learning is a charming thing!
For thou, beneath thy wire-wove dome,
A learned creature hast become;
And hast, by dint of oft repeating,
Got words by rote, the vulgar cheating
Which, once in ten times well applied,
Are to the skies with praises cried.
So lettered dunces oft impose
On simple fools their studied prose.
Aye; o’er thy round though unwigged head,
Full many a circling year has sped,
Since thou kept terms within thy college,
From many tutors, short and tall,
In braid or bonnet, cap or caul,
Imbibing wonderous stores of seeming knowledge.
And rarely Bachelor of Arts
Or Master (dare we say it?) imparts
To others such undoubted pleasure
From all his stores of classic treasure:
And ladies sage, whose learned saws
To cognoscenti friends give laws,
Rarely, I trow, can so excite
A listening circle with delight.
And rarely their acquirements shine
Through such a lengthened course as thine.
The grannums of this group so gay,
Who round thee now their homage pay,
Belike have in such youthful glee,
With admiration gazed on thee;
And yet no wrinkled line betrays
The long course of thy lengthened days,
Thy bark of life has kept afloat
As on a shoreless sea, where not
Or change or progress may be traced;
Time hath with thee been leaden-paced.
But ah! proud beauty, on whose head
Some three-score years no blight hath shed,
Untoward days will come at length,
When thou, of spirit reft and strength,
Wilt mope and pine, year after year,
Which all one moulting-time appear,
And this bright plumage, dull and rusty,
Will seem neglected shrunk and dusty,
And scarce a feather’s rugged stump
Be left to grace thy fretted rump.
Mewed in a corner of thy home,
Having but little heart to roam,
Thou’lt wink and peer–a wayward elf,
And croon and clutter to thyself,
Screaming at visitors with spite,
And opening wide thy beak to bite.
Yet in old age still wilt thou find
Some constant friend thy wants to mind,
Whose voice thou’lt know, whose hand thou’lt seek,
Turning to it thy feathered cheek;
Grateful to her though cross and froward
To all beside, and it will go hard
But she will love thee, even when life’s last goal
Thou’st reached, and call thee still her Pretty Poll.
Now from these lines, young friends, I know
A lesson might be drawn to shew
How, like our bird, on life’s vain stage,
Pass human childhood, prime and age:
But conned comparisons, I doubt,
Might put your patience to the rout,
And all my pains small thanks receive,
So this to wiser folks leave.

from Schweigt Stille, Plaudert Nicht

Christiana Mariana von Ziegler
German
1695 – 1760

 

Father sir, but do not be so harsh!
If I couldn’t, three times a day,
be allowed to drink my little cup of coffee,
in my anguish I will turn into
a shriveled-up roast goat.

Ah! How sweet coffee tastes,
more delicious than a thousand kisses,
milder than muscatel wine.
Coffee, I have to have coffee,
and, if someone wants to pamper me,
ah, then bring me coffee as a gift!

The Place of the Damned

Jonathan Swift
Irish
1667 – 1745

 

All folks who pretend to religion and grace,
Allow there’s a HELL, but dispute of the place:
But, if HELL may by logical rules be defined
The place of the damned -I’ll tell you my mind.
Wherever the damned do chiefly abound,
Most certainly there is HELL to be found:
Damned poets, damned critics, damned blockheads, damned knaves,
Damned senators bribed, damned prostitute slaves;
Damned lawyers and judges, damned lords and damned squires;
Damned spies and informers, damned friends and damned liars;
Damned villains, corrupted in every station;
Damned time-serving priests all over the nation;
And into the bargain I’ll readily give you
Damned ignorant prelates, and counsellors privy.
Then let us no longer by parsons be flammed,
For we know by these marks the place of the damned:
And HELL to be sure is at Paris or Rome.
How happy for us that it is not at home!

The Authentic Sunnah

We present this work in honor of the 205th anniversary of the poet’s death.

04-20 Usman
Usman dan Fodio
Nigerian
1754 – 1817

 

Leave us alone with recalling what
Father used to do…
Leave us alone with relying on what
Is practised in the east;
These are grounds for those who
Stayed astray from Sunnah
Leave us with the idea that it is
Practised at Medina
Both Mecca and Medina are inferior to the Sunnah.

Lift Up My Steps

We present this work in honor of the First Day of Passover.

04-15 Freha
Freha Bat Avraham
Moroccan
d. 1756

 

Lift up my steps, O Lord, my savior,
I’d go to my country with a placid joy;
an ignorant people pursues me now,
and taunts me with a thunderous noise.
Take me, quickly, to a Galilee mountain,
and send your anger across their skies;
there I’ll see your light, my crown,
and say: Now I can die.

Lines Written Upon Seeing Strawberry Hill

03-18 Penny
Anne Penny
Welsh
1729 – 1784

When Thames, in plaintive murmurs, lav’d the grott
Where once his darling Pope each care forgot;
Where, with the Muse, he pass’d the smiling day,
Whose strains celestial crown’d the moral lay;
Each drooping Swan with sorrow view’d the shore,
And mourn’d, in melting dirge, their Bard no more:
Ah! flown, O Thames! thy fairest Swan (they sung)
Whose warbling lyre immortal Genius strung,
Truth, Nature, Virtue, touch’d the trembling chord,
While mute Attention caught the Poet’s word.
And must thy beauteous stream incessant mourn?
Is Genius banish’d, never to return?
No—thy sweet banks, immortal Thames! shall prove
His fond affection, and the Muses’ love;
Succeeding years will sure a Walpole give,
In whose progressive mind shall genius live:
His wish to crown—each Muse—each Grace shall meet,
And fix on Strawberry Hill their lov’d retreat.

Guansuoling

03-13 Cai
Cai Wan
Chinese
1695 – 1755

The mountains are far away from the extremity, and the sky is limited to the southwest since the past.

The beacon quietly guards the building and the fox goes up to the house, the wind is noisy and the ancient cranes startled the group.

The sideways stone is dangerous and the horse is in danger, and the deep lock Xiongguan cold protects the cloud.

Chi Yu Shengping still feels dangerous, and who reminisces about the old general.